WA government slammed for blowing $600m on unnecessary RATs

Auditor General criticises wasteful spending that could have funded two hospitals.

WA government slammed for blowing $600m on unnecessary RATs
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The Western Australian government has been called out for spending nearly $600m on Covid rapid antigen tests.

The money spent on the tests could have been used to build two hospitals.

Auditor General Caroline Spencer said the money spent was unlike anything she had ever seen.

She criticised the government for throwing huge amounts of money at Covid without “due consideration of the impacts”.

Spencer’s report on the state’s Covid response for 2021-2022, highlighted the McGowan government’s $580m spent on RAT tests in anticipation of a massive infection wave that never came.

She pointed out that the government purchased nearly 111m tests for a state with a population of around 2.7m people.

“An initial intention by Health entities to spend $3 million on RATs for health workers and returning travellers rapidly evolved to purchasing $440 million worth of RATs — around twice the cost of the Bunbury Hospital redevelopment,” Ms Spencer said in a statement.

“Along with the $140 million spent by the Department of Finance on RATs, public entities spent the equivalent of 10 per cent of the state’s 2022 operating surplus on diagnostic plastics without demonstrable evidence of clear, considered and co-ordinated planning or ongoing advice as to the necessity of the expenditure.

“I acknowledge the uncertainty that the pandemic created … however, I have never before witnessed such escalation in the cost of a program over such a short timeframe, occurring with a lack of due consideration of the impacts, or without a record of anyone pausing to ask what level of procurement was sufficient and whether this had been achieved.

“While it is accepted that being in a pandemic environment creates uncertainty and pressure on government to ensure they are providing what is required, there needs to be a point where we take a step back and assess if the ongoing decisions being made are sound, in the public interest and represent value for money.

“It is important that the right lessons are learned from this period.”

The report noted that it was unclear as to how the government would dispose of the millions of expired tests, currently stored in warehouses.

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  • By Avi Yemini

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